The implications for industry of internationally recognised environmental management system (EMS) standards
The first industry standard for environmental management systems, BS 7750, was published in the UK in September 1994. Since then we have seen the EC Ecomanagement and Audit Scheme come into force in April 1995 and an international environmental management system standard, ISO 14001, published in September 1996. The EMS standards allow organisations to have their environmental management systems externally assessed and approved. The first companies became registered to BS 7750 in April 1995, with approximately 70 organisations gaining certification during its first year of operation. Since then uptake of the standards has been steady but slow with many companies delaying their decision until the implications of adopting such a recognised approach have been clarified. This research reviews the experiences of organisations adopting the standards during their early years of operation. Key lessons are learnt from a three year Teaching Company Scheme project designing and implementing an EMS for a large chemical manufacturer. The author also draws on evidence obtained through a survey of organisations gaining BS 7750 certification during its first year of operation and a number of detailed case-studies. The aim of the research is to identify and assess the implications for industry of the EMS standards. Their impacts on business performance in terms of operational efficiency, competitive advantage, legislative compliance, public image and staff morale are assessed and their variability between organisations explained. The resource commitments required to achieve certification are identified including management time, capital expenditure, consultancy fees and certification charges. Accounting mechanisms for comparing the costs and income associated with environmental activities are reviewed and their applicability to monitoring the performance of an EMS evaluated. The research concludes with the identification of decision making criteria to assist companies in determining their environmental strategy.